Scully’s, chef Ramuel Scully’s debut restaurant, is tucked behind Piccadilly in St James’s Market, in one of those glossy new developments. But don’t let its corporate-looking exterior put you off. Scully himself is a chef who is a citizen of everywhere. Born in Malaysia to a mother of Chinese and Indian heritage and an Irish-Balinese father, he grew up in Sydney. Like so many of the most interesting chefs in London today, he cut his culinary teeth working for Yotam Ottolenghi. Accordingly, he cooks from the broadest of larders, hopping between flavours and cultures. And that larder is proudly on display here: the open shelves house everything from homemade spices, pickles and preserves to oils, sprouts and nuts/seeds. The message is loud and clear even before you’ve glanced at the menu: if you’re looking for boundary-pushing flavors, you’ve come to the right place.
There’s no doubting the shine and polish on this venture. There’s a low-lit, slate-gray dining room, but the best seats are closer to the action: along the marble counter overlooking the kitchen. It’s all very tasteful and relaxed, but what matters is the food. To get us going, we were presented with a snack bowl of fried chickpeas seasoned with Indian spices and curry leaves. This first proper snack set the flavour fireworks going immediately. Spicy, tender, moreish, we happily perused the menu proper whilst enjoying these and sipping on a bottle of French chardonnay.
Onto the appetitisers proper, first arrived the Yuba Tart (£9) made with tofu skin and filled with a vegetable achar of dehydrated and rehydrated pickled mix vegetables, bramley apple, peanuts and topped with a “pickle” sauce. Though I had no idea what to expect from this plate, the very first bite set the flavour somersaults going in my mouth. Sweet, sour and a seamless melange of textures – the crispy tart encasing pickled vegetables – each morsel was packed full of flavour.
Our next “snack” was Chargrilled Oyster Mushrooms served with a white soy and sake yeast flake sauce and seasoned with aleppo pepper (£8). This hit the umami spot bang on. Presented on skewers, just a drop of the accompanying sauce delivered all those umami Chinese/Japanese flavours you could hope for, offset by the smokiness of the grilled mushrooms. Our first small plates made the message of this place clear: this is food that packs a punch.
Onto the larger plates, we went for the Cucumber Carosello (£13), originating from southern Italy, and interestingly juxtaposed alongside the pulp of the god of the fruits – the Indian alphonso mango – and coconut yoghurt, herbs and toasted sunflower seeds. The tanginess of the creamy yogurt and pickled cedro lemon balanced out the sweetness of the mango and fresh cucumber. Unusual flavours, intelligently and so thoughfully paired. Everything works here – even and especially those ingredients you’d never think to put together.
The star of the evening, though, was undoubtedly the Arepa (£12), a ground mazie dough from South America, here made using an 8-day fermented corn bread and served with an eggplant sambal and a bergamot labneh. Each component, presented on three separate plates, it’s a dish you build yourself, cutting open the pillowy fluffy yet light arepa and stuffing it full. The aubergine is slow-roasted and spiced then served with the salty-sour punch of preserved lemons. To soften the acidity, there’s the labneh. The end result was a bite of joy.
Too often, Mayfair restaurants are spendy. Fancy food, pricey wine, you leave having been indulged by the staff. Scully’s feels like a rarity, because here it is the cooking – vivid, inventive, idiosyncratic – that is front and centre. Though smart, this is a restaurant that’s all about food. Even the lighting isn’t made for photographs. You’re here to enjoy the food (and your company!).
Scully’s, 4 St James’s Market, St. James’s, London SW1Y 4AH